Green tea. Not nearly as good a strong extra foamy vanilla latte, or a white chocolate mocha for that matter… but better FOR me right? Antioxidants? Earthy natural goodness? I can hear Portland cheering:) (Plus I’ve already had both coffee drinks today… haaaa.) HEY it’s MRI day! Anything goes on MRI day!
I’m sitting at my coffee shop of course. It’s raining. I have my normal seat by the window, a delicious crepe in my stomach, a steaming cup of GREEN TEA sitting beside my computer, and a cd in the windowsill that holds the results from my MRI today. Ooo now I’m trying to squish a fly with it!!
It’s been a while since I’ve written. Quite a while. LOTS has happened… here let’s see if I can catch you up on just a few of these things.
- I had the privilege to be a part of two births very dear to my heart. My little cousin Justus, and Linsey & Robbie’s new baby Max. It was a whirlwind – 2 babies, 2 different states, 2 days apart, BOTH all nighters! These two experiences definitely ranked in those lifetime highlight moments.
- I had my first benefit dinner here in Portland for my non-profit “Consider the Sparrow”. I was incredibly moved to have so many friends come out and show support. Seeing others moved by this vision and witnessing their first-hand generosity continuously leaves me speechless. (More on that later.)
- I was able to participate in a week-long intensive oncology massage training here at a local hospital. Awesome.
- Woohoo! I got to go take a most excellent roadtrip to Montana with the most excellent of company. Love those Bozeman summers:)
- I sold my motorcycle. Alas due to rainy days, needing to borrow storage, wanting to cut down expenses, and not feeling the greatest – my bike has found a new home. Luckily she went to a GOOD home, and will be well cherished – which makes it so much easier.
- Hmmm I have just lived through 4 months of the most challenging part of my cancer journey. Crazy huh? Not diagnosis, not treatment, not crazy breakups, not being bald or even hearing for the first time that 7 years is at the upper end of my life expectancy range. It even surprises me just saying it.
So I guess that’s what I’m going to talk about first.
Never did I think that would be my journey. What does despair feel like? Depression I suppose. What does this sort of depression feel like? To me it feels like hopelessness, helplessness, fatigue of the heart, fatigue of the mind. It feels like fear, restlessness, anxiety, isolation. It’s feels like loss of all coping skills making every situation require HUGE amounts of energy. It’s the inability to handle crowds, but also the fear of being alone and facing the dark swirling thoughts with no one to lock eyes with and get pulled to the surface with Truth. It’s the absolute contradiction to what I know in my faith to be true through Jesus. He is my Rock. He is my Strong Tower. He is the provider of my perfect peace and my hope. He is my JOY. How does this work then, when I know all these things to be true… not just in my mind, but my heart as well? Those were the things that kept me afloat through diagnosis and treatment. Why now do they come, when I have no active tumor growth, work going well, and a cozy place to live? Why now, when I have such great things happening, and loving people all around me?!
I didn’t know either. In fact I would say I slipped into an even deeper depression with the discouragement of also feeling like a failure in my faith, not being able to grasp onto His truths. The ultimate failure – disappointing God.
With a long story squished into a short one… I found out that with my increasing seizure activity (dizzy spells – it sounds nicer:), and some new medication I had started, to try to control them – I had found myself in the deep pit of side-effects. You know, those side-effects that are RARE but they have to tell you about just in case. Yep those were mine. On my list… depression and extreme fatigue. Bummer.
Okay so what do I do with that? It certainly helped knowing there was CAUSE for these emotions that honestly made me feel crazy. It felt like someone else was living inside my body, like I didn’t even recognize myself. And that’s a very disconcerting feeling if you’ve never felt it before.
The problem was, even with knowing the cause, I couldn’t get the emotions to change. The fear, the hopelessness, the loneliness, the struggle to engage in life… they were all still there! It seems like they should just disappear when I realize they’re not real right? Yeah I thought so too.
Well, what happened next, was just life. Life kept trucking. My training at the hospital was coming up – right at the peak of my distress. I knew what was going on by then, but felt my absolute worst in terms of emotional stability, as well as physical, mental, even spiritual fatigue. I decided there was NO POSSIBLE WAY I could do the training. I couldn’t even get through a restful day at home without tears and/or a 3 hour nap. Ha! How was I supposed to handle a week-long, 8 hour/day internship, on the hospital floor surrounded by cancer, life and death, peers don’t share my faith – in fact often criticize it, AND EXPECT TO SURVIVE?? How in the world would I have anything to offer? I talked to my family about it and my mom felt very strongly that I needed to go. I just needed to try. We decided I would go the first day, and if I couldn’t handle it, I would cancel the class and just come home… but I would TRY. She decided to come down to Portland and stay with me that week – making me meals, sending me out the door with a latte, giving me someone to decompress with when I came home. Do I have an amazing mom or what?:)
I felt convicted that in going, God was asking me to be a straight shooter. To just lay it all out, not trying to cover up anything, and not trying to be something I’m wasn’t. The first day of class we were told to bring something that symbolized hope in our lives. Well if that isn’t an opportunity to be a straight shooter, I don’t know what is:) So we went around the room with various massage therapists from all over the world sharing where they found their hope. All that was shared was very heartfelt. Then it was my turn. I took out a rock that had Jeremiah 29:11 simply inscribed in it. On one side was written, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord…”, and the other side, “plans to give you hope and a future. What I shared with them was basically this.
“Most of you know that almost 3 years ago, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Ironically the past few months has been the hardest season of my cancer journey. Due to some medication side-effects involving extreme fatigue and depression, I have felt almost incapable of living life. I’m on the route for change, but it will be slow. I almost decided to drop out of this class because I knew I had absolutely nothing to offer – to you all, our patients, or for myself, in my own learning. But in this verse from the Bible God tells me that He has plans for me. He has HOPE for me in my future. Now whether my future looks like the rest of today, or this week, or this year, or many years… He has hope for me. And that’s what I’m clinging to today to be here. There’s also a verse that tells me “God’s strength is made perfect in my weaknesses.” I have no idea what in the world that’s supposed to look like, but I do know that’s what He promises. I also know that if “weak” describes any person right now, it’s me. In every aspect of my life. But somehow through that, His strength is to be made perfect. And THAT is what I’m holding onto this week. And you can know for SURE that anything good that comes of my time this week has absolutely nothing to do with me.“
I’m pretty sure I cried a little. Several people came up to me after and thanked me for sharing, which meant a lot. We had a neat group.
Fast forward a few days. My instructor approached me and asked if I minded working on someone young. She mentioned the patient might want a foot massage. I said no I didn’t mind, I actually was drawn to the younger patients. I found myself at the foot of the bed of a 25 year old girl just diagnosed with a brain tumor, heading into surgery the next day. When I found this out, my heart twisted in a knot. I was looking at myself… 3 years ago! Incredibly surreal. Upon talking to the nurse beforehand discussing this and sharing a tiny bit of my own story, she looked at me with wide-eyes and said, “You have to tell her!” The room was a bit chaotic as the family was obviously still processing this sudden discovery. The girl herself was sitting up in bed looking quite dazed. I briefly mentioned my brain tumor situation and was immediately peppered with dozens of questions. “YOU… had a brain tumor?? But you’re working? You’re alive?? What was surgery like? What kind of tumor was it? What were your symptoms? What kind of treatment did have to you do??” I answered the questions to the best of my ability but mostly kept my focus on the owner of the feet I held in my hands. We were able to lock eyes several times and quietly talk. I asked her how she was doing. She whispered a response, “Confused, scared“. She asked me, “Were you scared? How do you feel now?” Our quiet conversation, my gentle massage, our connection in the chaos, just through knowing we understood a piece of each other’s difficult journey – it was like nothing I could describe.
Every evening our class had a debriefing session and I was asked how it went with my ‘young patient’. I told them the whole story and said, “You know, I was worried I wasn’t getting the experiences everyone else seemed to be getting (exploding catheters, infections, difficult patients/families), everyone just kept asking me for hand and foot massages. Which are GREAT, but what was I learning? Well one of my hand massages that day involved a woman crying from the moment I touched her, through to the end. She had just found out her cancer had returned. She had no visitors. (I got to pray with her the 2nd day… she was a believer! We talked about how fun it will be meeting up in Heaven someday). Then I had this young patient. Who just wanted a foot massage from some random therapist but the therapist ended up being a young female with exactly the same cancer. The second day I worked with her I was able to massage her feet and talk with her right up until transport came to get her for surgery. She got wheeled out with a much more peaceful face than I had seen the day previous. I told them that THIS is the reason I do what I do. I discovered that day, that massage was my MEANS to do what I was really passionate about. To be at the bedside of people in their rawest moments – moments that perhaps I can offer encouragements into… just because of the simple fact that I have a story. The encouragement my patient received that day had nothing to do with my stellar one-of-a-kind foot massage, but it was just the fact that we had a unique bond in our similar stories – and that I was willing to be there. Weak and flimsy that I was:).” I shared all this and broke down crying… not surprising anymore;) I finally found my words to finish. A classmate grabbed my hand. Then I heard a sob, I looked up and saw my instructor looking up at the ceiling just sobbing. Then I looked around the room and saw half of my class in tears. I was shocked!
This was the class I had been so afraid of, knowing I’d be living and sharing my faith so openly. The best part was, I had adamantly told them beforehand that ANYTHING good that came of that week was all God’s doing, not mine – and then to have all that happen! And for all of them to be so moved!
His strength being made perfect in my weaknesses.
Wow. He really did mean it! It really WAS possible when steps were made in obedience and faith. This impossible concept really did suddenly come to life! For me, this has been one of the most significant faith building cornerstones in my life. When God wants to work through me, he’s not limited by my inabilities, in fact the more the better! Less of me always means more of Him. My only job is to step forward in faith, even when my emotions haven’t caught up yet… believing He IS who He says He is. This has become my little altar of remembrance for when I run up against this again. Because I will! It’s impossible and it’s miraculous but His strength really is made perfect through my weakness. Praise God.
Wow that got long:) SO… Consider the Sparrow. Well I guess you just got a taste of it. It looks exactly like I just described. Making my way through different oncology settings (hospitals, cancer clinics, hospice) to offer free massage to cancer patients. Money that has been donated to this vision supplements me with a small income allowing me to do this on a wider scale then just a couple volunteer hours per week. My hope as my energy increases is to schedule myself on a weekly basis at multiple locations. If the need arises, we will look into bringing on more therapists, but for now we do one thing at a time:)
I can’t even describe to you how this feels like a dream come true to me. I love massage, and have since the day I started, but honestly felt that when I got diagnosed with cancer, my massage days were over. To be back in my profession AND to have found a way to use it to bring encouragement into the cancer world, both physically and emotionally – it seems too good to be true. From diagnosis to today, I would have never predicted this path for myself, in a bazillion years. But honestly… honestly I wouldn’t trade it.
I know it sounds crazy to say that, but really, if through our weaknesses and inadequacies we get to experience Jesus in the most powerful way, and get to be USED by Him in the most powerful way… then sign me up for round 2! Truly. I will take my human weakness, anxiety, fearfulness, depression, fatigue, physical ailments, seizures, and perhaps even a young death by cancer… with my powerful God holding me up.
I will take that ANY day over a long, safe, agenda-driven life that depends on my strength and sanity to get me through. 1) I would be boring. 2) I would be bored. 3) I’d be missing out on the most exciting thing that we can ever experience… getting to participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that we may also share in his GLORY (Romans 8)! Getting to experience, use, be used, share, rest, be restored, be inspired, be made powerful by his STRENGTH for his GLORY…. Does it get any better than that?
I’m smiling right now. I hope you are:)
I don’t know what tomorrow’s results may bring… but let’s bring ‘em on! My human strength will always fail me, as it has very consistently over the past several months… but I have tears in my eyes looking back at how he’s met me in the most intimate ways through these struggles. We serve a good God. In the midst of a chaotic and decaying world… we serve a good, most powerful and gracious God.
Praying for you to experience Him that way too. If my experiences can encourage you on this path… these struggles are totally worth it.
Love to you:)
Sooo here we go. It’s tomorrow, appt day. Well this is the day we’ve been anticipating just unsure of what the timeline would be. My MRI shows changes that indicate tumor re-growth. The doctors have asked me to come get scanned again in 6 weeks instead of my normal 3 months to monitor additional changes. Depending on what they see, most likely the next will be surgery.
Funny how today’s appointment follows THIS particular update. Amazing how God works. I even wondered while writing it why God had me going to all those places. I honestly think he was preparing me, and perhaps providing an avenue for my heart to be clearly expressed for all of you, as you hear this news. That is my greatest desire.
I honestly feel okay. Things are a bit surreal right now.. but I’ve always known this day would most likely come. God has settled me in his peace. I know what this news could hold, but the truths I mentioned above still remain. God is good, God is my strong tower, my perfect peace, my ever present help in my time of need. Love Him.
I will keep you posted friends… most definitely more frequently than the pattern of the past several months:) Thank you thank you thank you for your prayers. I benefit from them every moment, and I am most certainly feeling them now.
Love to you all,